Michael Crichton is a high-tech, science-savvy Renaissance man in the 21st century. He has sold more than a hundred million books, which have been translated into 30 languages. Twelve became high-grossing movies. Children everywhere have "Jurassic Park" nightmares.
His books are so popular in China that when the calcified remains of a species of dinosaur was discovered there, the Chinese named it Bienosauraus crichtoni in his honor. In 1992, People magazine named him one of the "Fifty Most Beautiful People."
Now a new kind of fame brings Michael Crichton to Washington to speak to policy wonks. He's promoting his new book, "State of Fear," which zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists, but he doesn't come to Washington to talk about the novel.
Not long ago his speech, "Science Policy in the 21st Century," was sponsored by two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, and it's about what he thinks about environmentalists in general, and climate change in particular. He has a lot of thoughts about the way science influences public policy.
He minces no words. What passes for science by so-called experts in the debate over "global warming," he says, influences policy that is based on faulty data and ideological considerations. This does considerably more damage than good.
Ideology drives the scientists who get the grants to conduct research; the government agency that gives grants is driven by politics. In the novel, a page-turning action thriller, major characters, including a scientist, a lawyer, a philanthropist and two gorgeous women, are superheroes who foil the devices of environmental extremists, evil missionaries with messianic drives, pushing policies born of their own egos.
In a novel twist on the novel, the author appends footnotes and a bibliography to document scientific reports, and two hard-hitting essays explaining how and why politicized science is dangerous.
He compares the science of the environmentalists as similar to that of the study of eugenics a century ago. The study of eugenics, the idea that the human race could be "improved" by selective breeding, was at first supported by presidents, Nobel laureates, major universities, the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, and together they molded public opinion. The science was insidious, pseudo-, and wrong.